While certain famous California amusement parks get all the attention, don't overlook some of the smaller places, especially the ones located right on the beach. What could be better? You can enjoy rides, arcades, miniature golf, and lots of eats -- all with the sand and the surf right at your feet.
What's more, these beach amusement parks are a whole lot cheaper than those big guys. There are no admission fees, and you can buy ride tickets separately, or get unlimited ride or combo deals. You may also be able to save a few bucks by purchasing tickets online. Check out their web sites for current specials.
Parks are listed from north to south.
Photo courtesy of Pacific Park
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk: This park is the grandaddy of them all, featuring some truly impressive vintage rides. The park's wooden roller coaster, The Giant Dipper, dominates the scene. Built in 1924, the Giant Dipper is the 6th oldest roller coaster in the nation. But not to worry, it's well-maintained and refurbished. For those seeking a calmer ride, the 1911 Loof Carousel is a real charmer. Other rides include Sea Swings, a Ferris Wheel, Double Shot and numerous kiddie rides. There are arcade games, laser tag, mini golf, shops, restaurants, snacks and more. The amusement park is located right on the beach with great views of the Monterey Bay.
Pacific Park : This landmark California amusement park is built right on the Santa Monica Pier. The park features the world's only solar powered Ferris Wheel, which at 85 feet offers spectacular views of the coastline. You can also enjoy great views from the West Coaster, a steel roller coaster that takes you up 55 feet. In addition, there are a variety of thrill rides and kiddie rides, plus midway games, fast food and snacks. But that's not all. In addition to Pacific Park, the Santa Monica Pier also features a historic carousel, an aquarium, an arcade and several shops and restaurants.
Balboa Fun Zone: Located on Balboa Peninsula in Newport Beach, this small California amusement park features a Ferris wheel, a carousel, arcades, food, and shops. Nearby, you'll find the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum, as well as shops and restaurants. You can also board a harbor cruise or whale-watching cruise from here, or take the Catalina Flyer for a day trip to Catalina Island.
Belmont Park: Located on Mission Beach in San Diego, this California amusement park is famous for its roller coaster. The park's 1925 vintage wooden Giant Dipper Roller Coaster has been restored and is ready to provide plenty of thrills and chills. Rides with names like Beach Blaster, The Chaos, and Vertical Plunge add to the excitement. For the younger set, there are bumper cars, miniature golf, and various kiddie rides. The Liberty Carousel, a beautifully detailed antique reproduction, adds a lot of charm. If you want to get wet, there's The Plunge, a large indoor heated swimming pool. Or learn to ride an endless wave on the Flowrider. There are also shops and restaurants both in the park and in the neighborhood.